We’re already nearly a quarter of the way through 2018, which simultaneously feels too slow and too fast. If you’re on the University calendar, this time of the semester gets really weird: midterms, committees, spring break, graduation preparations, that random March/April snowstorm. But if you’re not on the University schedule, it’s still a weird month because you’re over winter, and while the warm days are lovely, the insidiousness of global warming and climate change makes you feel guilty for being happy to feel the sun on your skin.
But alas, this is a food article, not a weather article, and I have a few suggestions to help with the late-winter doldrums.
Thali | Kohinoor
I posted about Kohinoor’s thali lunch menu a little while ago. There are a variety of items in adorable little bowls; you get to taste of a bunch of stuff, which is a nice way to try new things. With vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, there is literally something for everyone. The thali platter is only available for dine-in during lunch.
Since that post, I’ve been back to Kohinoor to have it again. It’s just so damn good. In truth, it’s kind of a lot for lunch, and if you eat the whole thing (as one is wont to do), you’re going to feel full and lethargic. So you’ll just have to choose your thali lunch day wisely — perhaps it’s the best option on a lazy day off or weekend, or maybe you should eat it before some meeting that does not require your participation. On my last thali outing it was a lovely warm day, and I walked to the restaurant, had lunch and walked home. My walk to the restaurant was a bit livelier than the walk home, which perhaps goes without saying. I always order the special vegetarian thali ($10) because it comes with a samosa.
6 E Columbia Ave
M-Sa 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Su noon to 3 p.m.
Beer Flight | Crane Alley
Do you see a trend? I like to sample many things in one sitting, and beer flights are an excellent way to do that. Crane Alley has an impressive bar with rotating features, making for a unique combination each time you visit. Prices for the flight will vary depending on what you order, though all flights start at $7 for four beers. The food menu at Crane Alley is solid and can appeal to a wide variety of eating preferences. It’s an easy choice for larger groups, as well as out of town visitors.
115 W Main St
11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily
Ultra Bowl | The Wheelhouse
I went to The Wheelhouse for the first time during Restaurant Week, and it was delicious. The Ultra Bowl ($7) might be the best thing I’ve had to eat this year thus far; it was an incredibly well balanced and interesting salad. I keep thinking about it—I’ve developed a craving for that combination of flavor and texture—and I really need to take a trip to St. Joe to have it again. The WheelHouse offers a rotating, seasonal menu, but the Ultra Bowl is a permanent item, though some ingredients will change seasonally. Do yourself a favor and take the short trip to The WheelHouse — on a nicer day, you can even bike there on the Kickapoo Rail Trail.
109 N Main St
T-Th 5 to 9 p.m.
F + Sa 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Pizza with garlic, onions, and pepperoni | Jupiter’s
Sometimes, when we have some free time and aren’t totally exhausted, the spouse and I go to Jupiter’s at the Crossing with a friend or two to shoot pool. Okay, that’s not entirely accurate — sometimes we go to Jupiter’s so he and our friends can shoot pool and I watch TV. The Crossing location has way too many televisions to count; it’s very distracting, usually in a good way. A lot of people love Jupiter’s pizza; I’m not one of them. It’s not terrible pizza; it just isn’t what I want when I want pizza. I often find it too bland.
But this is not a Jupiter’s pizza takedown piece! It is quite the opposite! On our last billiards outing, the spouse opted for chicken tenders, and a friend and I shared a pizza. Apathetic toward our order (save for the salmon pizza, which is a friggin’ abomination) my friend ordered pizza (red sauce, mozzarella) with garlic and pepperoni.
Garlic and pepperoni, you ask? Yes, is the answer. That ‘ish was delish. Perhaps it was the pungency of the toppings that provided a delicious flavor profile for the thin crust square, but I was lifted from the blandness of past pizza experiences. Surprisingly, the garlic and onions were neither overpowering nor super rank, and melded quietly with the already zesty pepperoni. I know what you’re thinking: “I bet your breath smelled pretty ripe after that.” Perhaps. But, dear reader, it was worth it.
Jupiter’s offers half price pizza and pool on Tuesday nights, so that’s when you should go. If you’re looking to play pool, the Crossing location has more pool tables than Downtown Champaign, and is often a better option.
Jupiter’s at the Crossing
2511 Village Green Pl
11 a.m. to 2 a.m, daily
Coffee | Flying Machine Coffee
This is, perhaps, the saddest entry I’ve made in this column. After four and a half years or so at Cafeteria and Co. in Urbana, Flying Machine Coffee will close its doors permanently at the end of this month. To call it a bummer is an understatement. The upside, I suppose, is that Flying Machine Avionics in Midtown Champaign is up and running and you can still get the caffeinated goods there (though seating is much more limited).
To send our friends off well, I encourage you to stop in before March 28th for your last Urbana FMC beverage. My all time favorite is the rosemary mocha, but on a recent outing I had a Mexican spiced chocolate Lucky Pierre Doughnut with the sweet heat latte (with honey, chocolate, cinnamon, and cayenne). I was committed to the theme, and it was an excellent decision. The sweet heat latte is really quite lovely, like the rest of the fancy drinks prepared by Flying Machine.
So, go forth, drink your last Urbana drinks, and then visit FM Avionics after March 28th.
Flying Machine Coffee
208 W Main St
Until March 28th
M-F 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sa + Su 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
All photos by Jessica Hammie